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Academic Rigor and Advanced Coursework

Academic Rigor and Advanced Coursework

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? This is the question that guides our Talent Development program, and the question that our teachers ask their students.

“We believe that all students should experience academic rigor and a pace that is challenging but doable,” explains Rachel Gens, Director of Elementary Education. “This is what makes our Talent Development program different from a traditional Gifted and Talented model.”

In the elementary years, the focus is on nurturing talents, challenging students and preparing them for the accelerated pace and complexity of middle and high school advanced academic courses. This journey begins with universal screening during second grade, ensuring that academically advanced younger students receive tailored instruction within the general classroom. Students identified as potential candidates continue to participate in the Talent Development program throughout their elementary school years, benefiting from both enrichment groups and Accelerated Math classes.

“Our elementary Talent Development program provides opportunities for both enrichment and acceleration. Enrichment-focused classes promote the development of critical thinking skills by engaging students in project-based learning, inquiry and communication activities,” explains Gens. “Students participating in enrichment classes solve logic puzzles, work on creative writing tasks and participate in book clubs. Our 4th and 5th-grade Accelerated Math classes challenge students by introducing them to above-grade-level material and preparing them to take advanced placement and college-level courses in high school.”

As students transition to middle school, the program adapts to meet their evolving needs. Here, the emphasis on academic ability is combined with the development of critical thinking, problem-solving skills and self-confidence. The middle school program offers an array of enriched courses, including Advanced English Language Arts and Advanced Mathematics, in tandem with a range of exploratory opportunities in the arts and computer science.

The high school phase of the program underscores our belief that all students can perform at high levels. We offer a wide array of Advanced Placement (AP) and College in the Schools (CIS) courses, as well as more traditional honors courses throughout the school day. All of our advanced courses are self-select, meaning that there is no application process. To support high school students new to advanced coursework, we also offer seminar courses for our most advanced classes to help set them up for success. We know the power of advanced courses on a high school transcript, and we want as many students as possible to earn college credit while in high school. 

The results of our Talent Development program can be seen in our 2023 graduates. An incredible 68% earned college credits while still in high school! Through AP, CIS and Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), 195 students earned up to 3,553 college credits!

  • AP: 157 students earned a passing score of 3 or higher on AP tests, taken after completing RHS courses in Biology, Microeconomics and/or Spanish Language and Culture. 
  • CIS: 171 students earned college credit through our College in the Schools courses, which include classes like Climate Crisis: Implementing Solutions and College Algebra Through Modeling. 
  • PSEO: 33 students earned college credit through PSEO classes, which were offered on college and university campuses. Two of our graduates even earned their associate’s degrees along with their high school diplomas, starting college this fall as juniors!

In Richfield Public Schools, we are focused on the long-term impact of advanced coursework, aiming to empower students with college credits, a robust transcript, and the skills they will need to succeed after graduation. With our inclusive approach to talent development, we are ensuring that every student has the chance to explore their full potential.

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We believe that all students should experience academic rigor and a pace that is challenging but doable. This is what makes our Talent Development program different from a traditional Gifted and Talented model.

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